Meet The Model Helping Shine a Spotlight on Indigenous Art


Magnolia Maymuru wants to introduce the artwork to a new, mainstream audience.

Magnolia - Credit by George Fragopoulos copy

Photo: George Fragopoulos

She made international headlines earlier this year after becoming the first Indigenous model to represent the Northern Territory in Miss World Australia. Since placing in the competition’s top ten, Maminydjama Maymuru – who is known professionally as Magnolia – has been enjoying her newfound success, having been announced as the face of Chadstone’s SS16 campaign in Melbourne and making her debut runway show at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF). The latter, the model from Yirrkala tells us, is a milestone made all the more poignant due to her creative roots and passion for her Indigenous culture.

“I hope that by selecting DAAF as my first official catwalk, I am able to shine a spotlight on Australia’s talented Indigenous artists and celebrate their work,” the 19 year old tells Collective Hub. “Art and creativity are important elements of my life and upbringing in Yirrkala.” Indeed, Yirrkala is a coastal Arnhem Land community renowned for its vibrant artwork and traditional culture. Further cementing her passion for creativity, Magnolia’s great-grandmother is an artist whose work has been shown at the Louvre in Paris, while her father is a member of the Indigenous reggae band East Journey. “Since art and creativity are integral to my culture, being involved with DAAF is a very natural fit for me,” Magnolia, whose traditional name means two headed spear, explains.

As she embarks on her modelling career, Magnolia has access to some of the world’s most beautiful clothes, but it was the pieces created for the DAAF that she was most excited about wearing. “It’s wonderful to see the art works being produced by Indigenous artists in remote communities translated into contemporary fashion pieces that can be worn in day-to-day life, bringing the artwork to a new, mainstream audience,” says the teenager, who explains that introducing Indigenous artwork to a wider audience is crucial for those remote communities who rely on the income the art generates. “There is so much creative talent throughout the Australian Indigenous community and the Art Centres are fantastic champions of the Indigenous artists,” raves Magnolia. “All of the revenue raised at DAAF is returned to the communities, which is integral to the livelihood of the artists and their families. In some communities, art is the sole source of income so DAAF plays a very important role for Indigenous artists around Australia.”

Magnolia Maymuru copy

The 19 year-old’s own rise to prominence is nothing short of inspiring. After being approached by the director of the NT Fashion Week, Mehali Tsangaris, while using an ATM in Darwin back in 2014, Magnolia turned down his on-the-spot offer of a modelling career, choosing instead to focus on her education. “Getting an education is hugely important in my family and community,” explains Magnolia. “Many of the female elders fought for many years to have quality education and bilingual education for us in the community. Finishing my schooling had a lot to do with showing them my respect for their struggle.”

So when she bumped into Mehali again in 2015 having finished year 12, Magnolia gave the prospect of a modelling career some serious consideration. “I spoke with the elders in my family and they believed I was able to take on the responsibility and they said they always thought I could be a model,” Magnolia tells us, adding that she looks to her family for guidance on how to navigate a modelling career while respecting her heritage. However, her ambition as a model is a simple one; to enjoy the experience of meeting new people and to be able to share her culture with them. “Hopefully, I can show people no matter where you come from or what shape size or colour you can dream and if you work hard they can come true,” says the teenager. “It means a lot to me to be able to show girls everywhere never stop chasing your dreams.”

Read more about Magnolia’s journey in Issue 37, on stands now. 

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